28 March 2011
Thousands of exotic trees at the Shimba Hills National Reserve will be harvested, Forestry minister Noah Wekesa has said. The announcement ended a long-standing disagreement between the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Kenya Forestry Service.
The KFS wanted the plantation harvested as most of the trees are dying of old age but KWS raised concern over how the plan will be implemented without affecting wildlife. The decision to harvest the trees was reached at after the Wekesa toured the expansive reserve last week.
Wekesa, who was accompanied by his assistant minister Josphat Nanok, the chairman of KWS board of directors Daudi Mwiraria, KWS director Julius Kipngetich among other dignitaries, directed that KWS and KFS form a team of four people to implement the plan.
The team, together with the Nema, will conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment and come up with a report to be presented to the minister and the boards of the two parastatals.
The main issues raised by KFS were that the plantation is old."There is a need to harvest them to reduce the loss and earn income for the service. Since Shimba has been declared a conservation area, no more exotic plantation will be established, but the area will be left for natural regeneration," a KFS official said. Nema has already written to KFS indicating that it expects an EIA study to be done before any harvesting can take place.
The exotic forest covers about eight percent of the reserve and has cyprus, pine and eucalyptus that was planted way before the area was gazette as a reserve.
Both parastatals have stakes in its conservation and management of the reserve. It is feared that about 450 elephants, 150 sable antelopes and more than 400 bird species, may be negatively affected by the move, if implemented.
The reserve is also a water tower area, with five main rivers flowing through the forest, including Mukurumudji, Pemba, Manolo, Ramisi and Marere, which serve a third of the Coastal population with fresh water.
According to sources, an investor had already been consulted to fell exotic trees, and create room for the natural ones, after exceeding their germination period inside the reserve.
But KWS was against the move saying felling down the same will only cause massive destruction and unrepairable damage to some unique species.
KFS maintain that the felling of the trees should be a routine practice that will create millions of shillings in revenue for the country, and that it is being conducted in other reserves and parks.